With the Tennessee Volunteers setting the recruiting trail ablaze, fans are curious as to who these players are and how they will separate themselves from the rest of the players on the Volunteers’ roster.
Interviewing three coaches about their players, one gets the sense that coaches view their players as more than just players and more like a part of their family. These players are “their kids” and like most parents, these coaches were well prepared to dote on them.
The first kid being Dylan Brooks, a 4-Star prospect and the No. 1 weakside defensive end in the country and No. 36 player nationally. This rising senior out of Handley High School in Roanoke, Ala. recorded 27 tackles and nine sacks last year, making him one of the most highly-touted, pure edge rushers in this year’s cycle.
“That’s what everybody in the country is recruiting him for, because he’s 6’5″, he’s so athletic, so fast and he bends so well,” said Larry Strain, head coach at Handley. “That’s the trademark difference. All these camps that I’ve taken him to and I’ve taken him to several, he can tip his shoulder, lower his shoulder or change direction, the advantage is there because he’s so quick and so flexible, that’s the difference between him and any other guy they’ve probably got.”
However, Strain isn’t one to take all of the credit, chalking Brooks’ natural ability as an athlete to his success. Brooks is a two-sport athlete with a basketball background for Handley as well being a four-year starter for its football team.
Strain also praised Brooks’ versatility as an athlete as did his position coach, Cedric Phillips, for Brooks development throughout his high school career.
“He’s played running back for me, but I am fortunate in this respect, the guy in his position coach, he played at Troy University and he played in the arena league for six years,” Strain said. “So, he has got a very valuable person for me in his position coach, he is getting hands on experience each and every day, with somebody that knows what they’re doing and that makes a huge difference I think.”
The second prospect is running back Cody Brown, a 4-Star hailing from Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. Brown is the No. 9 running back in the 2021 recruiting cycle and is ranked 121st nationally. He is a 6’0″ 227-lb. monster of a back, with the possibility to make an immediate impact when he sets foot on campus.
With two years as a starter for Parkview, Brown accumulated 3,694 rushing yards on 450 carries for an average of 8.2 YPC and 53 rushing touchdowns, his longest coming last year with a 93-yard rush for a score.
Brown’s head coach at Parkview, Eric Godfree had nothing but praise for his talented running back.
“Cody is a big strong RB with a lot of speed too. I truly believe Cody will make a push for a lot of playing time his freshman year,” Godfree said. “Beyond his abilities on the field, he is going to make his teammates better too. He has a great work ethic and is a servant leader. I can go on and on about how special he is as a person and player.”
Every program can use a player that comes in at a young age and is prepared to fight for a starting position, as well as for a leadership position. Leadership is one of the things that Tennessee has struggled with in previous years.
The third player is Julian Nixon, a 4-star wide receiver out of Centennial High School in Roswell, Ga. Nixon is ranked No. 231 nationally and the 43rd best wide receiver in the class, as well as being the 23rd best player out of the state of Georgia this year. Nixon picked the Volunteers over SEC opponents Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU, which is huge for the program.
Nixon’s head coach, Sean O’Sullivan has never coached him however, instead coaching against Nixon the last three years.
“He’s got great size. He’s to me, not only does he have the size, he’s got incredible hands,” O’Sullivan said. “As a freshman, the coach that was here did a great job of using him even at the wildcat position, so he’s extremely athletic you know, and I think he’s someone who can play outside, inside kind of wherever you need him to create mismatches, which is huge.”
Size and the ability to create mismatches, paired with great hands and has played in the wildcat. With words like this, Volunteer fans are sure to compare him to Jauan Jennings if these words ring true.